ACI LA Newsletter


n last month’s newsletter, Venerable Marut encouraged us to learn to make our suffering meaningful, to use it as a spiritual tool and re-envision it as an opportunity we would not have had otherwise. He reminded us that when we do this, there actually are no “problems.” There are just various occasions and contexts to cultivate and exercise our wisdom and compassion.

This month, Venerable Marut asks us to let go of past resentments and develop genuine gratitude for the many blessings that inundate our lives.

We hope this month’s newsletter supports your spiritual practice and provides you with the resources you need to make the most of your precious human life.



  This Month
  A Message from Brian (Venerable Marut)
  Student Contributions
  Dharma Flicks
  Dharma Website of the Month
  Dharma Book of the Month
  Dharma Podcasts: Recent Audio Uploads
  Current ACI-LA Classes
  Thank You
  ACI LA Home


ACI LA Newsletter


A Message From Brian (Venerable Marut)


As we start a new year, we have an important opportunity to jump-start our spiritual lives with a sense of renewed commitment and hope.  The tradition on New Year’s to make resolutions for the upcoming year is a very good one. To live a happy life we need to cultivate the confidence and optimism about the future that comes from a strong resolve and determination to live a good and beneficial life in the present.

But in order to really begin anew we must first review.  We can’t look positively to the future with paralyzing regret about the past. We can’t move expeditiously ahead if we are trailing too much encumbering baggage behind.

Robert G. Menzies declares, “It is a simple but sometimes forgotten truth that the greatest enemy to present joy and high hopes is the cultivation of retrospective bitterness.” As we review the past year, we must do two things in order to enter the new year free of the fetters that bind us.  We must be grateful and forgiving.

The first way to liberate ourselves from our debilitating retrospective bitterness is to cultivate gratitude – the recollection and appreciation of all that has gone right for us over the past year.  Gratitude regarding the past is an essential component of happiness in the present and optimistic resolve regarding the future.  It acts as a counter-weight to resentment, discouragement, and sadness.  It is impossible to simultaneously feel grateful and depressed.

It is not happiness that makes us grateful but rather gratitude that makes us happy. Richard Carlson, one of the founders of a new branch of modern psychology called Happiness Studies, observes that "throughout history wise men and women have encouraged us to feel grateful for what we have. Why? Very simply because gratitude makes us feel good."

If you have problems remembering what to be grateful for, you’re probably not trying very hard. At the very least, recall all the bad things that didn¹t happen to you last year!  The following is attributed to the Buddha: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.”

As the new year begins, it would be good to spend some time thinking about all the things and people you have to be grateful for.  Go through the following steps in a meditation:

  • Review all the problems you are having now, or have had during the year – all the difficulties and complaints you have about your life.
  • Now think about the problems others are having that you’re not having: living in extreme poverty; suffering from debilitating illness; living in the middle of a war zone; being unable to read and write; in the depths of despair and depression; lonely, without friends and family; ignorant about the true nature of things and cut off from any spiritual refuge and help; suffering old age or in the process of dying.
  • Return now to your own problems and relativize them.  In relation to the problems others are facing, how important and troubling are your own, really?  Resolve to stop exaggerating your own difficulties and spacing out on the problems others are experiencing.
  • Review the things that are or have been going right for you this year: successful relationships, career advancement; completion of major projects; spiritual advances; etc.  Feel gratitude and try to see how blessed your life really is.
  • Contemplate the things that others did for you this year: the ways others helped you, supported you, comforted you, taught you.  Make a list of specific people who did these things for you this year.
  • Visualize each one of these people and, one by one, say “thank you” to them.  Resolve to find ways to thank each one of these people during the course of the upcoming year.

In addition to cultivating gratitude, we must also practice forgiveness if we are to be free of the “retrospective bitterness” about the past that precludes our present happiness and hobbles our resolution regarding the future.  Forgiveness is, of course, a virtue universally commended by the world’s greatest spiritual teachers – and just as universally almost always left unpracticed.  Jesus famously taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Because turning the other cheek and forgiving are so difficult for us, we must be very clear about what forgiveness really is and why it is in our own self-interest to do it.  The definition given by the Forgiveness Institute on their web site sums up real forgiveness nicely:  “It is the foregoing of resentment or revenge when the wrongdoer¹s actions deserve it and giving the gifts of mercy, generosity, and love when the wrongdoer does not deserve them.”

Forgiveness is not done for the offender; it is in the interest of the offended.  "I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him," said Booker T. Washington.  If we don’t forgive – preemptively and unilaterally – we will remain unhappy, burdened with resentment.

While forgiveness does not depend on the whether or not the offender deserves to be forgiven, or whether they have first apologized to you, it is certainly not just forgetting that the offense happened.   As Thomas Szasz once remarked, "The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naïve forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget."

Nor is forgiveness an act of capitulation.  It is not ‘losing’ but rather a triumph over the negative tendencies in ourselves that prevent our own well-being.  Who’s the real ‘loser’ if we don’t forgive? "Holding a grudge takes mental, emotional, and physical energy. It makes you obsessive, angry, and depressed,” writes Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy.  “There's a strong connection between anger and a wide spectrum of health miseries - chronic stomach upset, heart problems, and skin conditions among them. Without question, the more anger we experience within, the more stress we're under.”

Finally, forgiveness is not an act of weakness but rather of strength.  As
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong."  If you don’t believe that it takes great strength to forgive, just try to do it.  You’ll quickly find out how hard it is.

So in addition to your new year’s gratitude meditations, don’t forget to complement them with forgiveness contemplations:

  • Think about wrongs committed against you.  Be specific about who, what, when, etc. and make a list.  Feel the resentment, anger, and hurt that you are carrying about these people and incidents.
  • Contemplate how important forgiveness is for you.  Think about the disadvantages of not forgiving and the advantages of forgiving.
  • Review what real forgiveness is and isn’t.
  • Go through your list and unilaterally and preemptively forgive those who have harmed you.  Say to yourself, for each one, “I forgive you, so and so, for what you did that hurt me.  I let go now of any and all resentment, anger, and hurt I feel about it.  I forgive you, unconditionally and totally.”
  • Resolve to make forgiveness a daily part of your spiritual practice until you have really forgiven each and every one of these people who have hurt you.

Letting go of past resentments, together with developing genuine gratitude for the many blessings that inundate our lives, are the preconditions for a better 2008.  Start this new year right.  Clear away the weeds of the past that choke off your present happiness and besmirch your view of the future. Resolve to do something good for yourself and for others this month and this year: be grateful and be forgiving.

With all good wishes,




ACI LA Newsletter

  tudent Contributions

A MEDITATIVE NEW YEAR'S EVE 2007: Student Reflections

NYE 2008\

A Meditative New Year's Eve 2007
By Susan Kim

There is absolutely nowhere else I would rather have been than where I was December 31, 2007 to ring in the upcoming year.  A sweet room beautifully dressed with colorful and flowing fabrics to my left, a warming fire to the right of me, people on mats, cushions and chairs around me, plentiful food behind me, and of course, a special place in front of me for our devoted Venerable Marut.  I was so happy to see the 30-40 people who decided to spend New Year's Eve in meditation.  In Los Angeles, surely there were many invitations to more vigorous celebrations around the city.  The group of us though, decided to bring in the New Year quietly and thoughtfully, wanting I suppose, something different.  I didn't get a chance to ask people why they chose this instead of that, but maybe like me, they just wanted something honest to turn to as the year ended and a new one began.

Lama Marut guided us beautifully in meditation through our past year.  Kind enough to give us a moment to whine about what didn't go right and get that out of our system, he then reminded us to be grateful for what did go right and for those who kindly helped us.  One by one, we extended from our hearts, gratitude to those who taught us, nurtured us, and loved us.  Forgiveness came next, for wrongs from others that we experienced over the year and Lama Marut asked that we wholeheartedly forgive them "unilaterally" and "preemptively" for our own sake.  Forgiveness is for us and is key to our happiness.  Carrying us on further, we were asked to bring to mind those we had hurt in the past year and to purify any wrong doings on our part.  We exposed ourselves and opened to purification, intelligently regretting our misdeeds, resolving not to repeat them again for a specified amount of time, and make some kind of restitution, possibly in the form of a sincere apology (later in person, if this did not cause further distress to the recipient).  The evening closed timely around midnight with our resolutions. No bells or whistles, no noisy fireworks to disrupt our quiet celebration.  Just us, peacefully and carefully, we wrote down our spiritual goals we intend to keep. We gave great thanks and honor to our holy teachers who so perfectly and patiently guide us along our path.

I was completely satisfied with the silence, the beauty, the loving eyes that surrounded me, speaking without words.  We communicated with our mutual presence, keenly aware that each of us chose this way to bring in the New Year instead of the other.  What brought us there wasn't so important.  That we were there, was. That we even had this opportunity was just... amazing.  It was beautiful and meaningful, a perfect way to end, begin, and renew.

Thank You dearest Lama Marut, for conceiving such an extraordinary evening and Thank You to everyone there participating!  It was such a pleasure to be with you all for New Years Eve.  May your holiest aspirations become your reality, and please... take everyone with you!!!

With Love and Gratitude.

Click here to hear the audio from this year’s meditative New Years Eve:

Reflecting Anew
By Andrew LauGel

Attracted by Lama Marut’s energizing presence, his insightful delivery, and his vivid and humorous enactments of our common internal chatter, I experienced this winter’s “Lama Marut Season” with gratitude, joy, and even awe.

True to his ordained name, the Venerable Sumati blew “me” away, clearing my mind.
From his skillful Explorations In Emptiness, I learned more closely how the precious Dharma protects “me” from “myself.”

While marveling that Lama Brian had been on his feet for two hours without a hint of anything less than passionate concentration and precise conviction, I realized that cultivating Bodhichitta enables us to Relax and Work Hard.

How dazzled I was, as if listening to an amazing passage of classical fugue or intricate jazz, to hear Lama Marut lead my mind from the complex themes of The Ethical Life to the triumphant coda of the Lam Rim Chen Mo.

How very nice, then, to finish both the season and the year in the comforting presence of our Precious Lama.

As friends and Dharma students meditated together, quietly formulating their spiritual goals for the coming year, Lama Marut warmly guided our thoughts with confidence and care.

Now a week into January 2008, the Great Wind I feel most deeply is the thrill of rekindled Bodhichitta as it feeds the light of Dharma.Thank you, Venerable Marut, for your strength and kindness as you guide our presence to the future present.

Click here to hear the audio from this year’s meditative New Years Eve:

Reflections From Afar
By Patricia R.

I live in Alaska, at an inconvenient distance for traveling to teachings in the Lower 48, so when the opportunity to participate in a live remote guided meditation with Lama Marut came up it was clearly a gift that I wasn’t going to pass up.  If you listen to his teachings and talks you know they are rich with information, provide clarity and are very inspiring.  The first thing I noticed about the live remote experience was an immediate sense of community; imagine this web of people all over the world sharing this meditative experience. Of course then I thought, what if there were thousands of people participating in this meditation together (wow, hopefully that will happen in the future).

Lama Marut guided all of us through gratitude, forgiveness and purification meditations and this progression done live helped deepen my experience.  I suppose that must be what it is like when you attend one of his teachings.

It was a great experience to participate remotely in the “Meditative New Year’s Eve” with Lama Marut. I very much hope that he plans to do live guided meditations more than once a year. That would be very beneficial.  Thank you Lama Marut!

 Click here to hear the audio from this year’s meditative New Years Eve:



Reincarnating in China
By Irma Gomes

The Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas of Tibet have had a long story together. When one passed, the other was in charge of finding and recognizing the next reincarnation.  In 1995, just after His Holiness the Dalai Lama had recognized Gendhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Rimpoche, the Chinese authorities kidnapped him and his family.

The Atheistic Government of the Republic of China claimed they were “protecting the boy” and shortly after named their own Panchen Lama, who has been obviously rejected by the Tibetans, and the increasing western Buddhist Community.  China uses the boy as a speaker for its policies, in an attempt to control Tibet’s religion and culture.

The Dalai Lama, out of ultimate kindness and wisdom, has announced repeatedly for some time now that He’ll be born in a free country, since the Chinese know that controlling the Dalai Lama means controlling Tibet. Furthermore, he has recently proclaimed that there is a possibility of him choosing his successor while he’s alive, or to allow the Tibetan community in exile elect the next Dalai Lama.

Interestingly for a non-religious country, I have recently learned that the Chinese government has created and passed a law forbidding reincarnation. I can’t help but wonder if they realize that, by admitting to reincarnation, which applies both to a Dalai Lama or a random baby, the police force is going to be really busy arresting all newborns. Either we all reincarnate, or we all don’t. This policy will reduce parent’s plans to have children and at least our planet won’t be so crowded.

This is a wonderful example of the crazy world we live in, and for the time being, given that the Chinese may be serious about this, please, don’t reincarnate in China.




ACI LA Newsletter

  Dharma Flicks

Implicit Dharma:  No Country for Old Men

In No Country for Old Men, the Cohen brothers have delivered a universal tale of good and evil by entering wholeheartedly into the vernacular of the American Southwest.   The action plays out on the desolate plains of New Mexico where Sheriff Ed Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) follows the trail of ruthless murders left by Anton Chigurth (Javier Bardem).  In this masterfully told tale, barren landscapes, trailer parks and cheap motel rooms give the film a tone that is at once existential and completely naturalistic. Through seamless dialog and stunning photography by Roger Deakins, No Country, invites the viewer to ask where he or she might fit into a world where everyone is either a hero, a villain, or a victim.  In a scene where the killer, Chigurth, confronts a victim-to-be he asks, “If the rule you followed brought you to this, what good is the rule?”  In this tale where the stakes, in a very Middle Way sort of turn, are set up precisely in the balance between existence and nihilism, the film’s antagonist poses a very interesting question.  Indeed, what are the rules we use to bear ourselves along?  For, Anton Chigurth it seems the harshest adherence to chance but for Sheriff Ed Bell it seems the desire to make sense of a world that increasingly defies explanation. The astute Dharma student can certainly sense the drama playing out between the poles of the Middle Way.  Bardem and Jones, nihilism and absolutism respectively, show us that what does play out between the extremes is what makes our very fate.

Explicit Dharma:  A Path to Happiness

In this 4-hour DVD set, the Dalai Lama discusses thoroughly not only the philosophical foundations for happiness but also the actual means for achieving this sometimes elusive state.  Beginning with meditation, His Holiness discusses ways to develop the compassionate mind.  Once we begin to develop a basic awareness of compassion, our minds begin to understand bodhicitta, or compassion based on correct view.  Once we begin to develop even the slightest amount of bodhicitta, our minds seem an entirely new place and we are able to see the actual cause of happiness.  As Shantideva famously writes, “All suffering comes from the wish for your own happiness” and, as the Dalai Lama points out, all happiness comes from the desire to alleviate the suffering of others.





ACI LA Newsletter

  Dharma Website of the Month
  We thought it might be useful to bring to your attention a valuable dharma-oriented website each month. There are so many great dharma sites on the web…

Thank you to Rebecca Vinacour for recommending this month’s dharma website.

Web Site of the month:

This month’s website is called Donors Choose. Teachers from schools across the country (mostly in very low income districts) post specific requests for their classrooms (books, trips, other materials) and you can donate as little or as much as you like. You can choose schools by income level, location, etc...  And when you donate, you'll receive letters and pictures from the kids from the classroom you've helped out.  85% of your donation goes directly to buying the items.

The website has in interesting history: was pioneered by teachers at a Bronx public high school in the spring of 2000. Charles Best, then a social studies teacher, saw first-hand the scarcity of materials in our public school classrooms and the profound impact of this scarcity on kids' education. Looking for a way to address this problem, he sensed an untapped potential in people who were frustrated by their lack of influence over the use of their charitable donations., a website connecting classrooms in need with individuals who want to help, was born.


If you come across a site that you’d like others to know about, please notify Shannon and contribute to this part of the newsletter.





How Yoga Works

  Dharma Book of the Month

Title: How Yoga Works
Authors: Michael Roach and Christie McNally

“The Yoga Sutras”, written around the second century B.C. by Master Patanjali, is considered the greatest and most important text regarding ancient Indian yoga philosophy.

Fast forward two thousand and some years, and you have “How Yoga Works”, Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally’s modern classic, a fictional tale based upon the story of how the yoga sutras made its way to Tibet.  Imbedded into this delightful and sometimes tragic story, is a condensed version of the entire teaching of Patanjali’s “The Yoga Sutras”.

“How Yoga Works” is a story of a young Tibetan woman, traveling from Tibet to India, and in her possession is “The Yoga Sutras”, which has been adamantly taught to her by a Tibetan master.  On her voyage, she is mysteriously and unjustly arrested by Indian police officers, and thrown in jail.  Her charge is that she is in possession of “The Yoga Sutras”, which they believe she stole from someone else.

In order to prove her innocence, the Captain forces her to teach him the information that is found in “The Yoga Sutras”.  As the Capatain is receiving his teachings, so too is the reader, along with a explanation of how it all "works".  Thus begins the story, and the unfolding of many unexpected, and sorrowful events.

What Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally accomplish with this book, like the ACI courses, is that they take very ancient, and esoteric Buddhist/ Yogic teachings, and make it easily understandable to Americans.  This book is just one more example of their capacity for imaginative ways of teaching and the love they have for their students.

Click to purchase from Amazon:





  Dharma Podcasts and Recent Audio Uploads

Dharma Audio Podcast

You can watch Dharma flicks, read Dharma books and now you can hear Dharma podcasts.  Life in the modern world certainly makes life easy for a practitioner to get wonderful access to teachings! 

This month’s Dharma podcasts are a series on the "Four Noble Truths" which will continue through January.

Access all the Podcast here >>

Or listen to the Four Noble Truths teachings here:
>> The Truth of Suffering: The Four Arya Truths, Part One
>> Suffering Has a Cause: The Four Arya Truths, Part Two
>> There is an alternative to Suffering: The Four Arya Truths, Part Three

The Buddha said that suffering is not inevitable. Buddhism, like all religions, holds out the promise of perfect happiness in the future. But we must work toward this goal in part by practicing being happy all the time. Lama Marut here points out that there is never a time where it makes sense to be anything other than happy.

These podcasts were taken from a series of teachings given at the Windhover Performing Arts Center in Cape Ann, Massachusetts, in August of 2007.

Video Podcast

Lama Marut's video podcasts are becoming a popular way to watch extracts from His wonderful teachings. To access, you can go here to the >> Video Podcast page and subscribe.

Or click the links below to download Windows Media Files of the video:
>> Obstacles To Working Hard For Happiness, Part 1
>> The Three Spiritual Practices
>> The Gita’s Three Yogas and Buddhism
>> Obstacles To Working Hard For Happiness, Part 2

If you enjoy having access to these wonderful Dharma podcasts, please make sure to comment in the comments section on iTunes.

Also, make sure to subscribe to keep up to date on the digital downloads! Click on the subscription button at /mg-podcasts.html or and enter your email address to receive podcast updates. You’ll receive an email announcement when new podcasts of teachings are uploaded to either site.



Recent Audio Uploads

Lama Marut's Teachings

>> New Year's Eve Guided Meditation: Los Angeles, 2007

>> Dharma Essentials IX: Level 1 of Buddhist Discipline (Vinaya)

>> Explorations in Emptiness: Alder's Gate, Los Angeles

>> Learning Forgiveness - Public Talk at The Bodhi Tree, Los Angeles

>> Relax and Work Hard - Public Talk, Los Angeles

>> Yoga Essentials, New York City

>> Three Yogas of the Bhagavad Gita, New York City

Lauren Benjamin's Teachings:

>> ACI Course 5: How Karma Works

Cliff Spencer's Teachings:

>> ACI Course 15: What the Buddha Really Meant

>> ACI In Depth Course: Killing Anger






ACI LA Newsletter


Current ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are donation-based and open to the public.

  Ongoing ACI-LA Classes

ACI classes are DONATION based.

Lam Rim Meditation
Ongoing Tuesday Evenings
Hill Street Center
237 Hill Street
Santa Monica, CA
Taught by: Rick Blue

In Depth Course 2:
Killing Anger, The Patience Chapter From the Guide to the Bodhisattvas Way of Life

Monday nights
Beginning January 7th
7:00pm to 9:00pm
Venice, CA
Taught by: Cliff Spencer
To register please contact Cliff Spencer  or call 310-699-6013

pcoming Teachings

March 24, 7:30 - 9:30: Public Talk
Location: Los Angeles
Contact: Lauren Benjamin:

March 25, 7:30-9:30: How to Be Happy, Part Two.
Location: The Bodhi Tree, Los Angeles
Contact: Lauren Benjamin:

March 26, 31, April 2, 7:30-9:30: Explorations in Emptiness, Part Three.
Location: Los Angeles
Contact: Lauren Benjamin:

April 7-10, 7:30-9:30 PM: Dharma Essentials course TBA.
Location: Los Angeles
Contact: Lauren Benjamin:



ACI LA Newsletter

Thank You

  Thank you to Venerable Marut for his kindness in coming to teach the Dharma here in Los Angeles and around the world. Thank you to Lauren Benjamin, Cliff Spencer, Rick Blue, Lindsay Crouse, Catherine Eaton, Summer Moore, and Stephane Dreyfus for their kindness in continuing to teach here in Los Angeles.

Thank you to Stephane Dreyfus for maintaining the ACI-LA website. All suggestions and updates for the website can be sent to Stephane. Shannon Parry will be producing the newsletters and would appreciate submissions. Please email your contributions to
Shannon by the 25th of the month.